How to get the best environmental efficiency from electrical appliances

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By Larisa Birthwright, 4th April 2022

In this article, Travelife for Accommodation explains the factors businesses need to consider when purchasing and replacing appliances, along with some best practices for extending their lifespan and conserving energy consumption.

All businesses will use a variety of electrical appliances from computers and telephones to fridges and dishwashers. These appliances will need regular servicing and a process in place for efficient operation, replacement and eventual disposal or recycling.  Let’s take a closer look at how businesses can identify where they can make environmental improvements in how they purchase, use and dispose of electrical appliances.

Purchasing

An important part of reducing emissions is ensuring you have a process in place for always considering low-energy technologies when purchasing or replacing equipment that consumes energy or water. If your business does not already have a sustainable purchasing policy then you may find it helpful to read our article about sustainable procurement. Your policy, and budget, should ideally allow for purchase of the most efficient options available and this applies to large equipment like air-conditioning units and restaurant fridges through to small items like kettles and microwaves. When looking at allocating resources, we recommend you prioritise replacement of equipment that draws the most power or emits the most pollutants, this often includes items like fridges, heating and cooling systems or vehicles.   

Another important consideration is lifespan. Replacing equipment with modern and more efficient technology can sometimes seem like a big investment but consider not only how much less energy an LED light bulb uses (reducing emissions and energy costs), but also how much longer it lasts (less waste).  Here are some tips from us on purchasing environmental efficient equipment:

Environmental efficiency

(Uses less energy, water, environmentally hazardous chemicals or gases)

Lifespan

(Does not need to be replaced very often)

Look out for energy efficiency rating systems or scales. For example, all equipment that uses energy in the European Union it is rated on an A+++ to G scale, where A+++ is the most energy efficient.

Appliances should also have a permanent technical specification panel that shows you the power input in terms of watts (W).

An appliance with a low wattage is clearly the better option, however, you also need to consider the ability of the appliance to do the job effectively. For example, if you are looking to simply compare the efficiency of two fridges you must compare the wattage with the cooling capacity (BTU), essentially ensuring that you get the best performance for the lowest wattage.

 

Look for products that can be maintained easily and affordably so that you are more likely to keep them in good condition, extending their lifespan and improving their operational efficiency.

Make sure that the model you are purchasing can be repaired at a reasonable price and with minimal hassle.  Avoid any type of equipment that is so expensive to repair, that it is cheaper to buy new.

Avoid products that are built to fail so that you have to continually buy a newer model from the supplier.  For example, some mobile phones simply will not work on newer software after a period of time, even if the item is in perfect working order, and cannot be recycled with the manufacturer.  This has such devastating environmental consequences that some countries are trying to pass legislation to prevent manufacturers from employing this practice.

Good operational practices

Review and stocktake

It is important to understand what appliances you have, what they are used for, who uses them and when they were last serviced.  We recommend you keep a register or log of all the equipment in your business that consumes energy and/or water. This can include, but is not necessarily limited to, electrical appliances, vehicles, air-conditioning units and other installations.  Keeping this register updated helps you remember to schedule regular maintenance and to remind staff  how to use the equipment correctly.  Both of these actions help ensure optimal energy efficiency and can increase the lifespan of the appliance, supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and reducing waste.  

Brief your staff

This might seem less obvious, but it is easy to assume that people know how to use equipment efficiently. For example, placing warm items into a cold fridge will cause it to use more energy to cool itself down whereas ensuring items are cool or cold before placing them in the fridge can help maintain the temperature which in turn reduces the amount of energy used.

All equipment used by employees is at risk of being operated incorrectly or being left switched on unnecessarily, especially if it is used by multiple people or departments. Operating guidelines or reminders should be provided where appropriate.  Equipment or facilities in unsupervised areas can be fitted with sensors, timing devices or other control systems to ensure that they cannot be left running when not being used, avoiding the need to rely on humans to remember!

Cleaning and servicing

Equipment operates at its best when it undergoes regular maintenance in line with manufacturer guidelines and helps to establish the optimal time to replace equipment, both important factors in reducing emissions.  Here are some questions to consider when reviewing maintenance programmes:

Is this a regular schedule that includes checks for problems that are promptly fixed? For example, leaks, general wear and tear, breakdowns, dirt and dust.

Does this schedule cover all types of fixtures, installations and equipment that use water, energy and/or chemicals, or that produces waste (including wastewater and general pollution)? This includes things like boilers, air-conditioning systems, solar panels, pipes, pools, bathroom fixtures, electrical equipment, vehicles, machinery, irrigation systems and so on.

Disposal and recycling

Recycling and disposal of electrical appliances can pose a number of health and environmental hazards that need to be adequately managed by your business and the waste disposal organisations you use. You should therefore give careful consideration of how you dispose of all equipment, from light bulbs through to freezers, always ensuring that this is done in accordance with any local laws or regulations that are in place, along with guidelines provided by the manufacturer. Here are some examples of the hidden hazards:

Televisions and ovens contain metal and glass that you may not be able to see from the outside.

Cooling equipment contains refrigerants that create very harmful greenhouse gas emissions, some of which stay in the atmosphere for decades.

Fluorescent lights can release lead and phosphorous pentachloride.

Batteries can leak extremely hazardous acids that can contaminate soil and water for decades.

Lastly, if you no longer need an electrical appliance that still has some life in it, think about donating it to a local organisation who needs it. You may even want to go as far as making sure it is safely disposed of when they no longer need it.

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